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Political Parties: Donations and Loans

Volume 594: debated on Wednesday 11 March 2015

1. What progress she has made on her consultation with the Electoral Commission on the transparency of donations and loans to political parties in Northern Ireland. (907932)

The whole House will have been deeply saddened by the passing of Lord Molyneaux of Killead. James Molyneaux was a distinguished second world war veteran and a fine parliamentarian who served Northern Ireland with great distinction for more than four decades, both in this House and the other place.

We are committed to ensuring the maximum transparency in party funding in Northern Ireland that the prevailing security situation allows, and progress has been made in detailed discussions with the Electoral Commission on finalising the new arrangements. I have spoken with the electoral commissioner, and I am confident that the necessary draft legislation will be ready to lay early in the next Parliament.

I add my condolences and those of my party to those expressed by the Minister to the family, friends and former colleagues of Lord Molyneaux.

During the passage of the Northern Ireland (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2014, an undertaking was given here that last October the security situation would be reviewed again with a view to lifting the secrecy pertaining to party political donations. What progress has been made in that regard?

The hon. Lady is right that during the passage of the Act we discussed a review of the security situation and amending the measure accordingly. It is our aspiration to have full transparency in Northern Ireland, as we do in Great Britain. At the moment, our judgment is that the security situation does not warrant it and that we cannot take that risk, but we will keep the matter under constant review.

While looking at the transparency of donations to political parties, will my hon. Friend ask the National Crime Agency and the Chief Constable, when they are investigating organised crime, especially things such as fuel laundering in the border area, particularly South Armagh, to look carefully at the destination of funds arising from organised crime, given that the people taking part in crime—

Order. The right hon. Gentleman will resume his seat. I was indulgent towards him in not taking account of the fact that he has Question 8, but the substance of his question just now has nothing to do with Question 1.

I take this opportunity to pay tribute to my predecessor, Lord Molyneaux of Killead, KBE, who served in this House as the Member for South Antrim from 1970 until 1983 and then from 1983 to 1997 as the Member for the new constituency of Lagan Valley. He is fondly remembered by my constituents. He was the consummate parliamentarian and provided strong leadership in very dark days in Northern Ireland. He will be fondly remembered and missed by many, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family.

The Secretary of State and the Minister will be aware that Sinn Fein raises millions of pounds by various means each year for its electoral campaigns. There is a clear disparity in political party funding in Northern Ireland, yet Sinn Fein Members continue to draw hundreds of thousands of pounds in allowances from this House, despite not taking their seats. When will the Government address this disparity?

The right hon. Gentleman will know that that is a matter for the House, not me. It was last determined in 2006, and I would not wish to trespass further on the prerogative of the House.